Step 1 of 3 steps to hire and retain leaders who fit your culture: Clarify
Step 1 may seem basic, but a lot of trouble can stem from skipping basics.
What happens when the leader you hired doesn’t turn out to be the leader you need? It may be because the new-hire didn’t fully understand the job requirements from the beginning.
I once had a CEO request coaching for one of the company’s business development managers (BDMs), saying he was way behind in results. She told me the BDM was a former Navy, organized, experienced, and a great government contractor. So what was the problem? In talking with the BDM, I said, “You’re way behind in results; the CEO wants that to change.”
His response: “She said I just had to do open the door, she didn’t say I had to close deals. That’s her job.”
When I relayed this to the CEO, she assured me that they had discussed that. But it wasn’t written anywhere, and she had never told him he needed to close a specific number of deals. “He should know that he’s an executive, he was in the military,” she said. “Why would I have to tell him that?”
Why? Because he didn’t know and thus was not judging himself on the same standard. When I asked him if he was comfortable asking people for business, he responded, “No, absolutely not, I hate conflict.”
In this case, failing to fully clarify job requirements and expectations led to big issues. The CEO was equating his military service with an ability to close deals, when in reality, the BDM didn’t want to sell, ask people for their business, or do anything that could create conflict or an uncomfortable situation. This situation was made worse because the CEO and BDM genuinely liked each other and didn’t want to feel they let the other one down.
Alleviate problems stemming from misunderstandings by clarifying the job requirements upfront.
Step 1: Clarify
What type of performance is required for the position? Develop a performance scorecard to define what success looks like. Include the specific objectives, revenue targets, and improvements to productivity, processes, operations, and costs this leader will be responsible for achieving. Include both quantitative and qualitative measures. And make them time-bound—in 30, 60, 90, 180 days, 2 years—whatever it might be.
What type of work experience is needed to address the performance requirements? Past performance doesn’t guarantee future performance, but it’s the best indicator you have, so you want to find specific examples of how the candidate has performed in the past.
Make a list of questions to ask that can help you uncover proof of someone’s capabilities to do the job effectively. In the case of the conflict-averse BDM, asking questions like these could have gone a long way to determining fit for the job:
- Tell me about a time you closed a particularly important sale.
- What have you done in the past to convert prospects into sales?
- What did you do to improve revenues in your previous position? Who was involved in that with you?
- Some conflict is inevitable in life and at work—how do you approach conflict resolution? Tell me about a time you resolved a conflict?
What type of qualities does your culture value in its leaders? Cultural fit is as important as skills and abilities in determining success on the job. What are the most important characteristics of a leader in your culture? Is it caring? Listening? Intellectual curiosity? Communication? Collaboration? Innovation? Leaders that don’t share those characteristics will weaken your culture. So, ask questions and look for examples that demonstrate a candidate has those qualities:
- When do you stop listening?
- What does empathy mean to you. Give me an example of how you’ve used empathy on the job?
- Tell me about something innovative you’ve introduced on the job?
- What are your top 3 qualities as a leader, and give me an example of each.
You are the creators or the crushers of your culture every time you hire a leader, because they are the ones with the most impact. Clarify your needs!
Next time, we’ll look at Step 2 of hiring leaders who fit: Assess.
How can we help your leaders and business excel?